New Delhi, YOUTH KI AWAAZ, 08th Jan’16:

When Gissur Simonarson photographed a distraught Syrian refugee selling pens on the streets of Beirut, with his visibly exhausted daughter slumped on his shoulder, he knew immediately he had to do something for this man. As the image went viral on social media, Simonarson created a fund-raising page for this man on a popular crowd funding website. Nearly £10,000 were raised in just half an hour. 19 hours later, it had passed £33,000, and the figure kept escalating.

Simonarson was no celebrity. He was just an ordinary photographer moved by the plight of a refugee and determined to make a difference in his life. He is not alone. We see around us, thousands of people, like Simonarson, striving, in their own ways to make a difference by not just contributing to causes they feel passionately about but mobilizing others to support it as well.

As I read this story, my mind promptly drifted to another man’s journey – a young 25-year-old airline purser, Rippan Kapur, who back in the 1970s believed in the goodness of people and how each and every one in their own capacity can help the underprivileged. With a meager Rs50 as a starting fund, he relentlessly worked to urge people to fund for the cause of India’s children. He fuelled life into an organization that not just became a pioneer of individual fundraising methods but continues to be so, long after he is gone, making a sustainable impact in children’s lives. The organization is CRY.

We have always believed in the inherent “good” in every individual, the urge to do his or her bit for a social cause. Moreover, the youth is giving us hope that our belief remains strong and will be carried on through generations to come.

Reading about Meera Mehta, a student in Mumbai, who relentlessly used online platforms and her own page to write about an NGO she passionately believed in, reinforces this belief. She urged people to donate for the cause of patients and children in rural India who cannot afford treatment. Meera, all of 15 years, raised 10 lakhs.

In recent times, individual contribution has further evolved to unified individual donors supporting a common cause, thus creating a wave of support. Moreover, social media, with its reach and popularity, has provided an unparalleled platform to garner support for causes, for anybody, anywhere in the world. The unprecedented rise of crowdfunding platforms is a testament to this belief. What seemed to be a new fad within the gamut of social media initiatives has turned out to be one of the most important platforms to create awareness and mobilize people to come together to contribute to a cause. It provides the perfect link between people who would like to raise funds for a cause and for people who feel equally excited by it. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter are further escalating the reach of these websites.

India, too, is no stranger no crowdfunding. According to a report by data and analytics firm Allied Crowds, crowdfunding in Asia’s developing countries led the emerging world last quarter with over US$41.1 millionraised. India, interestingly, led the charge by raising US$12.4 million with three Indian cities (New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai) amongst the top five most active centres. India, they say, raises close to US$2 million a month via crowdfunding.

While international websites like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Causes, Startsomegood are popular, Indian websites like Ketto, Bitgiving are also increasingly giving competition to these. The innumerable campaigns for various causes by organizations, more so by individuals substantiates the trend of more people coming up to support causes. From challenging oneself beyond boundaries to achieve a tough task for a cause to pledging a personal milestone and raising funds while doing so, people are exploring different ways to achieve this.

The story of one of our volunteers, Ujjawal Chauhan, a final year IIT Kharagpur student who undertook what he called the “Madness Project”, last year is one such achievement. Undertaking a cross country bicycle ride, he traversed 4 states and covered 2,500 km from Kolkata to Mumbai capturing images of children for whom child labour is a day-to-day reality. As he set out on this personal challenge, Ujjawal helped CRY raise close to Rs 80,000 to ensure 100% enrolment in 12 villages he visited and make them child labour free.

Lately, we have experimented with crowdfunding yet again to raise funds and received tremendous support. Our ongoing campaign ‘Get Healthy, Give Healthy’, which encourages people to pledge their support for children of the country by raising funds via crowdfunding website Ketto. It requires them to set health targets for themselves and raise money for each milestone all along. It is overwhelming to see how employees, their friends and family are coming forward to support the pledges and donating for the cause of children.

This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting times for fundraising. Moving over celebrities and fancy events, the power of the individual, while always supreme, has begun to be more gloriously witnessed.